Firefox has this little feature when you pull up its built-in home page with a search engine box — just below the box is your recently viewed webpages, nothing unusual there, but between the search and history are three articles that Firefox thinks might be of interest to you. I have no idea if they are actually using an algorithm of the web history and past searches, or just curating interesting stories, but I often find one or more of the stories worthy of clicking. I figured initially that it was just clickbait, but most of the time, when I’ve actually clicked, the article has been worth the click.
Take for instance one from today. The article is written by a philosophy professor and revolves around anxiety. It starts with some powerful events — the death of his parents — that are not powerful in terms of trauma but in their normalcy. He then talks about how it impacted his sense of safety, life, religion even. His view of the universe. And then talks about his journey to understand anxiety from a personal, psychological, even existential perspective, informed by the works of philosophers and psychologists.
While it doesn’t end as strongly as it starts, and it veers into philosophy and psychology in ways that will bore a lot of people, it is a very compelling cerebral contemplation of anxiety. Here are some of my favourite highlights:
I had imagined that with my father’s death, the world had exacted its pound of flesh, a tax so terrible it would be levied only once. But in 14 years, death came calling again. One God – a child’s God, mythical and compassionate – died with my father; another – an adult’s God, a God of reasonableness, the one that ensured this world would not do excessively badly by you – died with my mother.
Prompted by the production of new traumas and losses in our lives, anxieties can interact and recombine like viruses to form newer ‘strains’ that course through us, surprising us with their ferocity and visceral feel. We should not expect our anxieties to remain the same as we age; by paying close attention to their nature, their ‘look and feel’, we can track changes in ourselves and our ‘table of values’.
I learned that I respond with anxiety to this world’s offerings. I’m a better person for this knowledge of myself.[…]My trajectory through the world is thus informed, at every step, by the anxieties that afflict me.
Our anxieties rush into the mental spaces we leave open, reminding us of all that can go terribly wrong.
Dread accompanies me through life but it is not without consolation | Aeon Essays